Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Game of Words
I'm far from the only one enjoying the TV-series Game of Thrones, waiting impatiently for season 3 to commence. I bet that this excellent fantasy drama would have pleased even its foremost inspiration: William Shakespeare. In the midst of all the spectacular scenes, its foremost quality is that of words, words, words.
The plot is full of devilish scheming and full-scale wars, its main characters struggling frantically to stay alive. Still, the real entertainment lies in the comments they make on the way. When they speak, I listen and ponder.
Shakespeare sure knew how to create a story full of love and hate, as well as both gruesome and glorious deeds, but what makes his plays shimmer is the dialog. The characters say such beautiful and wise things. They can, because Shakespeare allowed them all to be intelligent and thoughtful, whatever roles they played in the drama.
It's as simple as that. When the characters are permitted to have brains as well as sensitivity, the dialog comes alive. Every playwright should comply. Of course, that demands of the playwright to be at least equally equipped.
In the case of Game of Thrones this was already accomplished by the writer of the books on which the TV-series is based: George R. R. Martin. I haven't read the books, which are in the excess of a thousand pages each. Where would I find the time? But a friend who has done so assures me that the splendid dialog is a prominent trademark of theirs. No wonder, then.
On film and TV, usually, the dialog is seen as merely one of the instruments by which the plot is unfolded. That's not enough. Nor is it realistic. While we live our lives, we reflect and comment on it. We try to grasp its meaning and significance, try to make sense of it all. That's human. So a play has to reflect that. Any story must.
In order for these reflections to be interesting to the audience, they have to come from characters worth listening to, whatever happens to them. That's the Shakespearean way.
Some ten years ago, I was triggered to write a screenplay about the blessings and horrors of love in a medieval setting, and I decided from the start to stick to the simple principle of allowing the characters a dialog that would get me listening, and not cut it short. I loved writing it and I loved the result.
If you wonder, the screenplay, called Chastity, is still waiting to be turned into a movie. But in the meantime, dramas like Game of Thrones make the wait bearable. But what to do while waiting for season 3?